International visitors are likely to be touring the country in electrically-powered campervans by the end of the year.

New Zealand’s biggest campervan operator, THL, says its first electric vehicles (EV) should be ready by next summer and they will change the customer experience.

CEO Grant Webster says driving the vehicles will feel like being whisked along on a magic carpet when compared to driving the current diesel camper vans.

THL’s move to EVs is helped by camping grounds already being well set up with 15V amp power sockets to re-charge vehicle batteries.

The number of foreign visitors has jumped by 20 percent in the last two years but THL has opted for better fleet utilisation rather than a big increase in the number of vehicles it has on the road.

“We haven’t built new motorhomes at the same rate as new visitor arrivals … we are looking long term to be sustainable in the fleet size that we have. That means we have been able to get maximum utilisation in peak season … and better price increases.”

It has also tapped into the supply of privately-owned campervans through its “My way” platform.

Following the Airbnb model, THL now connects private campervan owners with tourists wanting to rent vehicles.

THL’s American subsidiary has just launched the platform in the United States.

Webster says THL is looking at ways it can expand into more international markets. It already has major operations in Australia, UK and the US.  It is currently starting a franchise operation in Japan.

“We look with admiration at what Mainfreight has done, our challenge is how we use our IP in these markets.”

In this video interview with Rod Oram, Grant Webster also discusses how the company is using the data it gathers from campervan drivers, how it is catering to the increasing number of Chinese tourists and the environmental issues facing the tourism industry.

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